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An Old Hacker Slaps Up Slackware 240

cdlu writes "What do you get when you mix an old hacker with an old distribution? A good old review of the recently released Slackware 10.2." Joe Barr over at (owned by the same company as Slashdot) lays down his thoughts on everything from the install to reliability and user loyalty.
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An Old Hacker Slaps Up Slackware

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  • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:35PM (#13882922)
    Think there's any chance we'll ever see a ppc port of this distro? Once upon a time, there was an unofficial project [], and for a while had an announcement up that an official ppc distro was in the works, but that was long ago...
    • It's here (Score:5, Informative)

      by chipster ( 661352 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:38PM (#13882950) []

      And the maintainer is fantastic. I deal with him often.

      • Wow, that's really cool, I was going to try that out years ago when I got my iBook, but Gentoo was farther along so I went that route. Today I run UbuntuPPC - do you recommend Slackintosh over that, or; what are Slackintosh's highlights?

        Always nice to hear more Linux work happening on PPC.
        • Re:It's here (Score:3, Informative)

          by chipster ( 661352 )

          Today I run UbuntuPPC - do you recommend Slackintosh over that, or; what are Slackintosh's highlights?

          That's a good question. I'm fond of both distros :-)

          The way I see it, UbuntuPPC gives that nice, Ubuntu/Debian feel on PPC platforms. Slackintosh gives that nice, Slackware feel on PPC platforms.

          A colleague of mine has even ported GNOME for Slackintosh/PPC: []

      • Thank you so much for that link. This was one of the things that was holding me back from getting an Apple *Book :D
      • Sweet!! Thanks!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Think there's any chance we'll ever see a ppc port of this distro?"

      No. PPC is dying and we need to stop wasting resources porting everything to its architecture. We could use these resources to continue focusing on improving the platform that the vast majority of people are going to use in the future. People told you not to buy PPC garbage but you decided to follow Apple instead. Apple has realized their stupidity and has now decided to follow along with everyone else and now you're going to pay the
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir ( 197432 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:36PM (#13882929)
    Redhat 5.0? I cut my teeth on Yggrassil. An add in Nuts & Volts magazine featured the Yggdrasil release way back. I believe it was 1992. I've been running Linux ever since!
    • SLS (Score:3, Funny)

      by starling ( 26204 )
      I'll see your Yggdrasil and raise you Soft Landing Systems on 50 floppies.

      Anyone else who's first Linux system was called "darkstar"?
      • by Arker ( 91948 )

        Anyone else who's first Linux system was called "darkstar"?

        Ah yep. 386DX machine with a whopping 8 megs of RAM, IIRC.

        • Re:SLS (Score:4, Funny)

          by starling ( 26204 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @03:19PM (#13883291)
          Ah yep. 386DX machine with a whopping 8 megs of RAM, IIRC.

          Sounds about right. Ah, the joys of manually calculating X modelines. And the terror of finding out that install disk 44 out of 50 had some bad sectors. [/geezer]
          • Re:SLS (Score:3, Funny)

            by wings ( 27310 )

            Ah yep. 386DX machine with a whopping 8 megs of RAM, IIRC.

            Ah, the joys of manually calculating X modelines.

            Eh. You probably even had color displays.;-)

            I ran Slackware 3.0 on a 386SX-16 w/4MB RAM with Hercules monochrome video. X windows is real interesting in 720x384 monochrome. Kernel compiles took around 4 hours.
        • by Wumpus ( 9548 )
          8 megs? I had 4. I had to put a swap file on a floppy once to allow Octave to finish calculating something when I ran out of memory and disk space.
        • I too had a 386DX(25) with 8MB of DIP DRAM on the mobo. That means it was maxed out, whee. I ran slackware on a 120MB disk, though. The A, N, D, and X sets plus netscape pretty much filled it up...
        • Yeah I remember that... I got mine as the part of a huge book, it really was just a bunch of man pages printed out. I wish I could remember the name of the book, it is going to drive me nuts now. Big yellow thing, was like a ancient tome of mystic writings.
        • Anyone else who's first Linux system was called "darkstar"?

          My 2400bps modem had a bad resistor or something. When it got too warm it would drop the call. So I used a low-tech heatsink to solve the problem while downloading floppy images all night: Big glass of ice on the modem. Somehow it never occurred to me to worry about condensation, and I managed to not fry the thing. :)

          I bought a 286 upgraded to a 386DX off some drunk frat guy at Lehigh one weekend. Don't even remember how much RAM was in it; prob
      • by Phaid ( 938 )
        Yup, I started in August of 1993 with SLS 1.03 with the 0.99.something kernel on 54 floppies. I downloaded the images at U South AL, and spent half the night in the "Sun lab" writing them to 54 floppies on the agonizingly slow floppy drives of two Sparstation 2's.

        Installed on my 486sx/25 with 8 megs of RAM. The sad thing was that I had to revert to my horrible Trident video card, because there was no X server that supported the mighty Diamond Stealth 24 card (s3 80c805 chipset) due to lack of documentatio
      • by Alan ( 347 )
        Man it's been ages since I've seen that... thanks for the nostalgia. SLS with the floppy disk sets was my first as well, set it up on a machine at work until I was confident enough about it to put it on my home machine, and been a linux guy ever since.
        • I worship at your LOW /. user ID... ^:)^ (Bet you get that a lot.)
        • Exactly the same here - I got work to spring for the floppies, installed them on a work machine and then made off with the goods for my home box. Sadly, we didn't get far with Linux at work because at the time it didn't support file locking (!).

      • darkstar... I seem to remember that from my first set of Slackware floppies. I think that was in '94 or '95. Got 'em from a friend. Unfortunately, after trashing my system several times and having to re-install from the countless floppies I was a little discouraged.

        Shortly afterwards I found a Slackware 3.0 disc at a local stolen-surplus-computer-parts store. (anybody remember Crazy Bob's in Wakefield, MA?) The kernel had reached version 1.0, I got X and FVWM working, learned to dial-up to my ISP and I've b
        • darkstar... I seem to remember that from my first set of Slackware floppies. I think that was in '94 or '95. Got 'em from a friend. Unfortunately, after trashing my system several times and having to re-install from the countless floppies I was a little discouraged.

          Yeah, me too. While I did start out with floppies, my first real machine had Infomagic's Slackware distro installed off a very early CD... I had terrible trouble with that machine, because it dual-booted DOS, and my DOS session had the Stoned v

        • You're right. Now I can't remember if SLS used the same default host name.

      • I think my SLS disk set was only 27 disks. It's been a long, long time, though. I still think of Slackware as SLS's de facto descendant.

        Having said that, if I get a PC again as a server, I'm not sure whether it'll be running any version of Linux. I got dragged into the FreeBSD camp a few years back, and as I'm now an OS X user, it's sort of like using FreeBSD's strange cousin twice removed. If I do go back to Linux, it'll probably be either Slackware or Gentoo, though. (Ubuntu looks pretty impressive, from
  • not a great review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fak3r ( 917687 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:38PM (#13882958) Homepage
    While I appreciate Slackware getting press (I used to run 8.0 on my server) this isn't much of a review. He talks about ever step of the installer, which hasn't changed in years, so there's nothing to tell here. He talks about how he adds a root password cause he always does (?) and goes on to tell about how since Slack doesn't support dependancy checking for installs he doesn't use any of the other tools (swaret, slapt-get) that do this for you (?). So don't get me wrong, Slack is still my fav Linux for servers since it paved the way for me to move to FreeBSD, but this isn't much of a review. (oh, and I commented on the article cause he says that RPM handles deps, but it doesn't; yum does. right? I haven't used RPMs for a time, but I'm pretty sure I'm right there)
    • Joe Barr sucks in general. Check out this biased newsforge article [] written by him and then the even worse slashdot writeup [].

      A note about Slackware, the name sucks. When Wind River dropped it's support of Slackware some friends and I went around (I was a high school senior at the time) and tried to collect money to send in for a donation. We made about $10 from the A/V geeks before going to the other students. We'd yell "save slackware!" and get some nickels thrown at us. People told us to get a job and such.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:40PM (#13882972)
    I slacked off, so forgive me since this isn't the true FP.

    I thought Slackware was only for leet hackers, so why do they need a HowTo?
    Old Hackers don't die
    They become a zombie process and have to be kill -9
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:40PM (#13882973)
    What do you get when you mix those two?

    Um, I get Hacktribution or distribacker.
  • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:40PM (#13882974) Journal
    It was about 60 floppies. My first crash was several weeks later when I ran GnuChess under X on my 486DX2/66 w 8MB RAM, and made my second move...
    • Ah, I remember rawrite and the Slackware floppies all too fondly. Now, I just download an image (of Debian), burn it, and voila! Takes ten minutes on a bad day.
    • "My first crash was several weeks later when I ran GnuChess under X on my 486DX2/66 w 8MB RAM, and made my second move... "

      That wasn't a crash, it was checkmate ;)

      I've been running Slackware since the distro was at version 0.96, which would be what? 1993? Sometimes, I long for the days of hand-configuring everything because there weren't any configutation scripts (that worked reliably) for X or PPP or any number of other things... Fun times :)
    • Man I ruined an entire labs worth of work and who knows how much more by downloading compiling and running GnuCash on our HP9000 server at the local community college. I just remember running the game, making like two moves and then all of a sudden everyone in the lab doing a collective "what the...". Took me a few seconds to put two and two together, close Kermit, and bounce to the cafeteria.
      It wasn't till I started running my own unix systems that I understood why the professor was so pissed that his
  • It'd be with slackware, it's the one distro that I used in college that was stable, that didn't have a massive error out of the package (this one the age when RedHat came out with a distro where GCC was broken!!!)

    I have to say slackware's name is perfect in a number of way, it's easy to get into, interesting to use, good to learn from, and good to modify how you want it to be modified.

    Kudos I might actually have to get the new version and get my old linux box back on it's feet.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:41PM (#13882983)
    ...I also learned to hate BSD-style init. I have found memories of Slackware since that's what I cut my Linux teeth on. I was too noob to even know there were easier distros to start with, but in retrospect you learn a heck of a lot more when the OS installer isn't slathered in wizards and GUIs.
  • Slackware is great in a server environment as it is pretty barebones and can easily be customized during the install. On the desktop (well laptop in my case) however, Ubuntu reins king. I've never had a friendlier experience using/running Linus.
  • Joe Barr (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:44PM (#13883018) Journal
    If this is the same Joe Barr who can't even install and use MPlayer [], do I really give a shit about what he thinks about Slack? I mean if he can call the best video player ever "The Project From Hell" [], he's just proven himself to be entirely unreliable.
    • have you read the article? maybe Joe Barr has changed, this review seems to be more sensical instead of some crazy rant by a pissed of guy.

      dont prejudge based on his previous reviews (although it's natural to do so).
  • well to be honest... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OgTheBarbarian ( 778232 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:51PM (#13883074)
    Strict glibc compliance and relatively few efforts to make it palatable to the desktop crowd is exactly what has made it perfect for a task specific server platform. Having stuck with it since 1994, when I first started down the road of discovering what Linux could do. I've never been disappointed (in terms of uptime, security and resource control) I will probably keep using it as long as it can be maintained. A learning curve isn't a bad thing. That's why I got into this in the first place. I'll leave Red Hat to the '1337'. This just works.
  • by Osty ( 16825 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @02:54PM (#13883100)

    Can somebody please explain why every single Linux review has to spend so much time on installation? Monday's post of a SuSE review spent a third of the article just on installation. Today's Slackware review spends half of the review on installation (actually a bit more than half if you cut out the conclusion that takes up a quarter of the last page). People, installation is a solved problem! SuSE and Redhat have had competent installers for nearly a decade. Even Debian is slowly getting into the act. When Corel first integrated a game of tetris while packages installed, installation was a done deal. What possible reason can there be to spend all of your time reviewing the installation process, rather than everything else? (and by "everything else", I mean the integration that a distribution brings -- how well are menus configured in your chosen desktop environment, does it have a good package installation story that keeps those menus up to date, does it provide you with recent and stable versions of popular software, etc)

    Yes, I know that installation of Linux is critical since you can't easily go out and buy a PC with Linux pre-loaded. I get that. However, the installers for pretty much every distro are simple and clear enough that it doesn't take a genius to use them. Skim your chosen distro's installation manual and have a go at it. Just please stop wasting review space writing about the installation process! Here's a hint: If your review is too short when you leave out the installer part, maybe you don't need to be writing a review.

    • Agreed. Having people spend 2/3 of the article on the installation process these days is akin to reading a review on an airplane that says: "It flies".

    • In the case of Slackware, the install and initial configuration is about the only thing that is easily accomplished and can be narrated in a small article. When one tries to do something more interesting, such as adding state-of-the-art hardware, patching the kernel for low-latency, or turning a slack-box into a media center or audio workstation, the writeup will quickly degenerate into an exposition of thousands of manual build/configuration steps requiring arcane and esoteric knowledge of the entire syst
    • (and by "everything else", I mean the integration that a distribution brings -- how well are menus configured in your chosen desktop environment, does it have a good package installation story that keeps those menus up to date, does it provide you with recent and stable versions of popular software, etc)

      Actually, I'd be more interested in other things- how well the selection of packages and the versions thereof meshes with stated goals, the impact of distro patches to the software, that kind of thing.

    • Can somebody please explain why every single Linux review has to spend so much time on installation?

      Aw, it's peer pressure plain and simple. Every reviewer feels compelled to walk the reader through the install process for all the chirping lusers out there chanting, "too hard! too hard! too hard!" What I say to anybody bemoaning the difficulty of installing Linux - don't talk until you've installed Windows starting from a bare hard drive and a Windows CD. I've done that, and actually found Linux to be les

    • The fact that Linux installation is pretty much easy as pie these days (generally, anyway) is irrelevant, though - what matters is whether the average user who hasn't experimented with Linux before knows this. Once everyone knows that installation isn't something you have to worry about, it doesn't have to be mentioned anymore, but so far, Linux still carries the "it can only be installed by experts" stigma among non-geeks, so I do think it's important that it's pointed out that this isn't true anymore.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @03:05PM (#13883182)
  • *blink* (Score:2, Funny)

    by Xarius ( 691264 )
    I read that as "An Old Slapper Slacks up Hackware"

    It must be time for coffee...
  • A real hacker (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @03:26PM (#13883352) Homepage Journal
    A real hacker ( the old style MIT kind, not the current model of a criminal ) would write his own OS from scratch.

    Or at the least choose BSD, which is much older and mature then the very idea of 'linux'.
  • by theBraindonor ( 577245 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @03:35PM (#13883422) Homepage
    What isn't pointed out by this review is that Slackware version the reviewer installed is still a 32bit version. The computer he installed it on is an AMD64. Personally, I would have found the review much more helpful if it had addressed the 64bit issues that Slackware has#151;which is what most new workstations and servers have under the hood.

    There is an 64bit port of Slackware out there, Slamd64 []. Unfortunately, it has no where near the stability of Slackware current. Just keeping the installer from crashing can be a huge headache. I ran into this first hand after purchasing an AMD64 server. It's hard to give Slackware a glowing review until the 64bit port is up to par.
    • And what isn't pointed out is that there is no "official" slackware 64-bit port. From the FAQ:

      What is Slamd64?

      Slamd64 is an *unofficial* port of Slackware to x86_64.

      This is like saying that if someone's rip-off of Red Hat's code crashes on you then Red Hat is crap. There is NO port of Slackware to 64-bits. There doesn't need to be. Slackware 32 is blinding fast already and does what it's designed to do, run on any 32-bit of above computer, EVEN 64-bit X86 compatibles. Just cos it's not optimised for it
  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @04:15PM (#13883746) Journal
    The one thing that really made me go "Ahhhh" when I was first exposed to Slackware was the fact that the packages included with Slackware are much closer (or almost identical) to what you would get if you downloaded them direct from the original maintainer (SSH, Apache, ect...).

    Consequently you don't find stuff hand hacked and installed in strange places. If the man page says its in "X" location, that's where it is. Too many distros take a third party app, modify it so that the way they install it is different from what the original INSTALL file says, which makes it fustrating to troubleshoot.
  • Because I run an old machine with a slower processor and less memory, I find the best Linux distributions for me are those that, by default, install as little as possible to get a running system without all the bells and whistles. The only system that works better than Slackware for this is a Linux from Scratch system.
  • by christoofar ( 451967 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @04:26PM (#13883846)
    Having using Slackware since its first release on a computer that dual booted OS/2, I can say for certain Slackware has staying power. DOS 6 was easy to install, Slack is too.

    Slack 10.2 makes it tons easier to boot from CD and even get the network up before you even boot into your installed OS, to be able to download any patches or setup NFS you need or copy special conf files down.

    If you want to do a complex install like I have (setting up software RAID on a 2.6 kernel running an AMD64-Dualcore with a Shuttle ST20G5), you can setup the raid from the boot CD, install everything, and patch your /etc files in vi right there before you boot into Linux.

    Without Slackware, I probably would have never been interested in Linux at all.
  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @04:58PM (#13884103)
    Mere bragging about my home Linux system isn't enough, here. I still like variety, still maintain multiple computers and always will want a different distro on each one, if for no other reason than to stay broad and test my own productions on multiple platforms. But the choices other than Slackware have gone from moderate to desperately dismal lately, to the point that I would like to point out some *lessons* that many other distros could learn from Slackware:

    (1) "Open Source" means "you can access the source code". Source code is nearly useless if all you can do is read it - you have to be able to compile it/interpret it. Do not strip out every single possible file having anything at all to do with source code. Slackware keeps the compilers and interpreters and libraries and header files and documentation needed for programming in about 15-20 different languages. You'd think that is a given - "Open Source" - "programming tools" - DUH! - but in fact, it's an exception. Damn near a freak.

    (2) "Following the herd" is for lemmings. Slackware has kept it's text mode installer while the whole world has gone GUI-crazy. Listen, GUIs are a great idea when you're watching a movie or editing graphics or surfing the web - get it? That's what you need a GUI for. When all you need is to read and write text, a GUI is a useless, superfluous, wasteful, unnecessary overhead.

    (3) "Popular" is for homecoming Queens. Slackware has gone halfway to divinity by ditching Gnome. Now I'd love it if it took the other step and ditched KDE, too. Check out the two-disk distro - know why you need two disks instead of one? KDE. The other window managers are any one better than Gnome and KDE combined, but if nobody ever tries them, no one else will ever know.

    (4) Distributions are released on disks for a reason - to put the operating system ON THE DISKS! Not putting in a patch-work kernel that's just enough for it to wheeze it's way online and download the other 99.99% of itself. I don't know which I get more annoyed with with other distros - wasting the money to burn all those disks, or discovering I am expected to pay for another internet connection just because the system is helpless without the umbilical cord of the internet connected to it. You can take a computer, an electric generator, and your two Slackware disks to a desert island and end up with a complete system ready-to-go - and able to reproduce copies of itself if need be, thanks to those handy programming tools. I just can't figure out how Slackware does so much more on two disks than other distros do in five.

    (5) Read docs - documentation good. Slackware has the full compliment of man pages, info system files, docbook, and various contents of /usr/share/doc, and in addition includes HOWTOs and FAQs from the Linux documentation project.

    (6) Keep it simpler than simple. I've practically thrown up when I explore the directories of soem distros. Pointers to pointers to pointers to nothing, programs missing half the files they need to run, everything scattered to hell and gone. Then people wonder why their system can't detect it's hardware and freezes up. Slackware follows the traditional directory structure and abides by it, going by the rule that conventions form over time because they make sense, and are not to be disregarded in the pursuit of arrogantly asserting how bold and creative you are.

    (7) There is no Slackware For Dummies. And well there should not be, because this distro is one that actually *compliments* your intelligence. And you'd be amazed how smart you are, when you're given the chance to be! So the package manager is minimal, and I hope it never changes. Packages are un-needed anyway, when the system can handle any source-code tarball you throw at it.

    Thank you all for glancing through it. We now return you to your regular grandstanding about Photoshop, Ubuntu, and Star trek.

    • 1. Ever heard of a source rpm? Tarball of the program + patches that were used (if any) + spec file that contains the build parameters & a Changelog. Not all of us have the time or inclination to dig through the source.

      2. I can type 'linux text' while booting just about any distro & get a text-based installer (I've done it often for troublesome video cards, or when I was never planning to install XFree86/

      3. Popular doesn't always mean worse - see Apache. Also, while non-Gnome/KDE window

  • There hasn't been major changes in slackware in a long time. There are many who don't like the way slackware does things, but that's just the way the fans like it. It doesn't get in your way. There is no mystery as to why something does or doesn't work. The packages are pretty much what the authors put out. There is nothing to review on slackware that hasn't been reviewed in past versions (install routine, package management, etc). There is no need to review slackware unless it starts to break or there is a

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.